Fifteen for 2015

15 in ’15.  ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN GAFENCU MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2015
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When it comes to numbers, 15 has a magic all of its own. The magic square, Lo Shu, for instance, adds up to 15 whichever way you look at it. We are now at the dawn of another 15 – the year 2015. Just what sort of year will it add up to? Here’s fifteen things that may give you some indication…

1. Watch it

The year 2015 will see humanity divided into two groups – those who have the new Apple Watch, and those who don’t. It’s what the well-dressed wrist will be wearing. Compatible with the latest iPhone 6 models, it will allow messaging, Facebook updates, simplified apps and Siri. It’s going to boost the obsession with fitness monitoring at the same time as removing any need to burn 100 calories just to get your new super-sized iPhone out of your pocket. Will the Apple Watch catch on to the extent that we’ll eventually leave our dress watches in the drawer? They should be a tad worried in Switzerland.

Launch date: Spring.

2. Meeting his Waterloo

The history book on the shelf, is always repeating itself, as Abba, those well-known big-flared Swedish historians were once wont to tell us. Waterloo, though, is going to be very much on the news agenda this year, with the British, the Germans and the Dutch (but perhaps not the French) keen to celebrate the bicentenary of the battle that finally saw off Napoleon. The battle was definitely a game of two halves, with the late arrival of the Prussians swinging the game. At the time, the Duke of Wellington said: “This was the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” The battlefield site, some 15 kilometres south of Brussels, is dominated by the Lion’s Mound monument.

Key date: 18 June.

3. Feel the Force – again

Many thought they’d seen the end of the Star Wars cinematic franchise back in 2005 with Revenge of the Sith. Many also felt, having seen the movie, that any further Jedi returns would be a little surplus to requirements. Not the mighty Disney, however. The entertainment conglomerate paid US$4 billion to buy Lucasfilm in 2012, with the express purpose of unleashing a further Star Wars trilogy on the world.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (as the first instalment is to be known) will result in an unexpected pay day for a host of original cast members. As the story considerately take up 30 years after the Revenge of the Jedi (the swansong of the original stars), it has saved the production a fortune on youthful prosthetics.

Coming to a galaxy near you on 18 December.

4. Guitar Man

Lester William Polsfuss – Les Paul to those of us in the cheap seats – will be quite rightly lauded on this year’s centenary of his birth as one the true pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar. Admittedly, a number of others, notably Adolph Rickenbacker and Leo Fender, also played their part. Today their names still adorn the guitars wielded by your most – and least – loved bands. Without Les Paul and his contemporaries, there would have been no Rock ‘n’ Roll. If you have noisy neighbours, you know who to blame.

Get ready for a 1, 2, 3, 4 on 9 June.

5. Where do I sign?

Almost everybody has heard of the Magna Carta, but not too many people can actually explain its significance. This year we will get a fresh reminder as the “Great Charter” – the historic document signed at Runnymede in 1215 – is 800 years old. In essence, Magna Carta limited the king’s powers by law and protected the subjects’ rights (the ones who weren’t serfs, anyway). The Charter influenced common and constitutional law for centuries and ensured King John would be for evermore portrayed as a pantomime villain.

Quills out: 15 June.

6. Oval-shaped ball

Fittingly, the 15-man code of rugby takes sporting centre stage this year with the arrival of the eighth Rugby World Cup. Back in 2009, England beat off bids from Japan, Italy and South Africa, to host the competition for the second time. In total, 20 teams will battle it out across a six-week period in a bid to land the Webb Ellis Cup. Overall, some thirteen venues will be used (including Cardiff). The big question is, who’s going to stop the All Blacks? Australia?

Gum shields in: 18 September to 31 Oct

7. WW1

World War I centenaries inevitably dominate the calendar from 2014 to 2018. The key events from 1915 that will be commemorated this year include – Gallipoli, the second battle of Ypres and the first-ever air raids on England (by airships). However, possibly the most significant WWI centenary event over the next 12 months is the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania, controversially torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the south coast of Ireland, while en route from New York to Liverpool. Tragically, 1,198 passengers and crew lost their lives – with the fact that 128 of these were Americans is cited as a primary reason for the USA eventually entering the war.

That sinking feeling: 7 May

8. Mad to miss it

The TV event of 2015? Surely the concluding series of Mad Men, which leaves our screens after seven series and eight years this year. Never have so many cigarettes been smoked and glasses of bourbon sunk in the name of art. What will become of Don Draper, Peggy Olsen, Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling? Will Megan meet a gruesome end at the hands of Charlie Manson? Will Betty be fat or thin? At least, once it’s done, it will be fun to go back to the start of the box set. And watch it all over again.

Mad no more: Spring

9. Blink and you’ll miss it

If you’ve never seen a total eclipse of the sun, and want to correct that omission, then the Faroe Islands or Svalbard are the destinations to head for in 2015. Both are Norwegian archipelagos in the Arctic Ocean, so wrap up warm. In totality, it will last for two minutes 47 seconds – that’s it. If you’re in Greenland, Iceland or Northern Europe you’ll see around 90% of the sun covered. As long as the weather is clear.

Lights out: 20 March.

10. Who’s missing?

As a shoe-in for most eagerly anticipated book of the year the The Winds of Winter – the next instalment in the George R. R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones series – would have been hard to beat. But, apparently, he’s still writing it, and it may be some time yet. The TV series will be catching him up soon. As an alternative book choice, plan to load up your Kindle or your library shelf with Elizabeth Is Missing, the debut novel by Emma Healey that comes out in paperback form at the start of the year. A gripping mystery covering 70 years, as narrated by an 82-year-old dementia sufferer. She may not remember it, but you will.

No longer missing: 1 January.

11. Long-service award

Queen Elizabeth II is set to enter the record books as the longest-ever reigning monarch in British history this year. Elizabeth became Queen on the death of her Father, George VI, on 6 Feb 1952. This year she will overtake her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, when she chalks up 23,226 days on the job. That’s over 63 years (yes, the calculation includes leap years). Will Lizzy 2 follow the recent example set in Spain by King Juan Carlos and in the Netherlands by Queen Beatrix and abdicate once she’s passed that milestone? Not a chance. Sorry, Charlie.

Reign forecast: 9 September.

12. On the road again

These days no self-respecting band isn’t on – or about to embark on – a two-year world tour. As digital streaming services cut band revenues, on the road is the only place left where money is to be made, especially with the eye-watering ticket prices that now come as standard. Many of the big money earners, however, have already sufficiently topped up their pension funds (or can’t get the insurance) and, other than One Direction, any band whose members are under 50 years of age don’t really have the draw to trouble the secondary ticket market. So, that leaves U2 then… expect to tour this year in support of Apple-giveaway Songs of Innocence and its anticipated partner album Songs of Experience. Will they finally play Hong Kong, where the streets have two names?

U2 due: When Bono says so

13. Savage Beauty

Alexander McQueen may have passed away in 2010 but his label and his reputation continue to live on. This year the V & A in London will play host to Savage Beauty, a retrospective exhibition highlighting the great designer’s enduring influence on the world of fashion. The show ran initially at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011 and broke all records as fashionistas vied to view the career-spanning range of McQueen’s haute couture work and accessories. It’s going to be a hot ticket. Expect Asian dates in due course.

Long Live McQueen: 14 March to 19 July

14. We are what we eat

We are used to the fashion industry telling us what’s in (purple apparently) and what’s out (mini skirts), but the food industry isn’t far behind when it comes to setting trends and enticing us to change our habits. Kale and Quinoa, for instance, hardly featured on anyone’s food shopping lists just a few short years ago, but next year we’re going to have to make room in our baskets for the super grain kaniwa, seaweed and cauliflower. Blame celebrity chefs for adding these welcome-ish twists to our cuisine. Despite this, you’re never more than five minutes away from a McDonalds. Or a Subway.

Weighting time: All year. And forever.

15. Fifteen minutes of fame

“In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes…” This increasingly apposite remark was generally attributed to Andy Warhol – until one particular art critic recently sought out his own 15 minutes of fame by suggesting the quote had been falsely attributed. Despite this, as aphorisms go, it’s as good a place as any with which to end this piece. It’s over to you now and your own New Year’s resolution. What, then, is going to be your claim to fame in 2015? Anything that lasts longer than 15 minutes will do.